A Hand UP, not a Hand Out

An organization that I feel strongly about is Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI). There are a lot of nonprofit organizations in the world doing a lot of great things, but this is one I am strongly behind. Because 95 million people in the United States and according to the United Nations, 1.6 billion people worldwide live in substandard housing, Habitat has dedicated itself to construct decent and affordable housing.

In clean, stable, decent housing:

  • Families can provide stability for their children.

  • A family’s sense of dignity and pride grow.

  • Health, physical safety, and security improve

  • Educational and job prospects increase.

  • (source:http://www.habitat.org/how/why.aspx)

    Habitat's mission statement is: "Habitat for Humanity works in partnership with God and people everywhere, from all walks of life, to develop communities with people in need by building and renovating houses so that there are decent houses in decent communities in which every person can experience God’s love and can live and grow into all that God intends."
    (source: http://www.habitat.org/how/mission_statement.aspx)

    One of the first myths I encounter when I talk to people about Habitat, is that Habitat gives away houses. Not so. Every Habitat family buys their house and makes mortgage payments and property tax payments like any other homeowner.

    So, how does it work? A Habitat homeowner is required to make a $1,000 down payment, attend 10 monthly education classes on subjects related to homeownership (budgeting, home maintenance, gardening, etc). Additionally, homeowners are required to invest 300 "sweat equity" hours in construction of Habitat houses - 50 hours has to be on their own home.

    Habitat provides the homeowner a 30 year mortgage at 0 interest rate and the house is sold to the homeowner at cost - Habitat makes no profit from the construction of the house.

    A family selection committee carefully selects families from applicants based on the need for adequate housing, their ability to pay the mortgage, and their willingness to partner with Habitat through volunteer hours.

    Donors make the whole operation work. Churches, Civic Groups, Banks, Corporations, small businesses choose to sponsor a home. Sponsorships start at $1,000 and 100% of the funds go directly to the cost of the designated home. Sponsors are then invited to take part in the build alongside of the family.

    After participating in several builds over the last 10 years due to employers sponsoring builds, the "sinker" for me has always been the stories the homeowners share at their home dedication. One story that has stuck with me was from a single mother that was in tears relating how excited she was to be a homeowner. She shared that several years before she was in a homeless shelter with her small children wondering what would happen to her family. Now she had a job and a new, clean, stable house for her children. Her children would not have to move schools frequently, and her children had a safe playground where she could allow them to play outside for the first very first time.

    For more information on Habitat for Humanity and how you can get behind this great organization's mission, visit: Habitat.org

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